Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Republicans blame Quinn for child-care funding shortfall

By Ashley Griffin

Child-care providers in the state are one step closer to being certain that they will receive state payments through the end of the fiscal year. 

The Illinois House approved a supplemental appropriations bill today that contains $73.6 million to pay providers and $151 million to pay down overdue Medicaid bills. Senate Bill 2450 passed with 113 “yes” votes and 3 “no” votes. Gov. Pat Quinn’s office had notified child-care providers that state payments, which help cover costs of the care for low-income children, would be delayed until July. A delay in payments would affect up to 40,000 child-care providers and 85,000 low-income families.

Although lawmakers may approve a solution to ease the funding crisis in the coming days, some blamed the governor for fiscal mismanagement.

“We appropriated that money, the governor shorted another line and used your money to fund that line,” House Minority Leader Tom Cross said to child-care providers watching the vote from the House gallery. “He used you, and we’re going to take care of it. But we can’t let that go on anymore.” Some Republicans accused Quinn of intentionally underfunding the program so there would be a reason to ask for more money. They said that the move erodes trust as they are working with the governor on the budget for next fiscal year.

 But Quinn’s office said the shortage of funds came from an increase in the need for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which is paid for out of the same fund. The TANF program has seen an 80 percent increase in enrollment since 2009. “We are encouraged legislators understand that just because reductions in the budget are made, it does not mean the need goes away,” Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said in a prepared statement. “This fiscal year we experienced a dramatic increase in demand for TANF cases. TANF, along with child care, are funded through the same line, and federal law mandates the state pay TANF first. Due to that unexpected increase in TANF, the state developed a $73.6 million shortage in funding available for child care. The legislation passed by the House calls for that funding to be restored, ensuring that the tens of thousands of Illinois residents who benefit from child care are not forced to choose between going to work and caring for their children. Unspent general revenue funds from this fiscal year will be used to fund the child-care program.”

However, Quinn's proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget calls for $85 million in cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program ,which already has some lawmakers thinking in advance on how to handle the program for next year. “We can try to predict caseloads better. … So we can avoid this kind or problem for FY13,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who chairs the House Human Services Budgeting Committee.


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